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Former Xinjiang prisoner arrives as key witness

Human rights activists hope that Ovalbek Turdakun, a Chinese national who was recently released from a detention camp in Xinjiang, will serve as a witness against alleged atrocities in the province of Xinjiang against the local population.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Lachlan Markay of Axios write that Turdakun is a unique witness due to his Kyrgyz ethnicity. While criticism against Beijing has focused on the repression of the Uygur population, other minorities like the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui have also faced imprisonment.

Authors Allen-Ebrahimian and Markay continue:

A Christian Chinese national who spent 10 months in a Xinjiang detention camp has arrived in the United States after months of behind-the-scenes lobbying by U.S. lawmakers, human rights activists and international lawyers.


Why it matters: The man, Ovalbek Turdakun, will provide evidence that international human rights lawyers say is vital to the case they have submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor arguing that China has committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.


What he’s saying: “I feel so happy to safely arrive with my family in America. For us, this means finally realizing a long-held hope,” Ovalbek, who navigated multiple Asian border crossings and months in diplomatic limbo, told Axios shortly after he and his family landed at Dulles International Airport on April 8.


The big picture: Ovalbek is a unique witness to Chinese government repression in Xinjiang, according to international lawyers, U.S. officials and others with knowledge of the case.


Details: Ovalbek was detained in February 2018 by Chinese authorities in southwestern Xinjiang’s Ulugqat County who stated he had stayed longer than permitted on a previous trip to Kyrgyzstan, according to a record of detention viewed by Axios and Healy’s interviews with Ovalbek.

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